Singles and Previews: Spirit Kid, Nicole Atkins, Chris Merritt, Lisa Mychols and more.

Some of my long time favorite artists are coming out with new material, so I figured I’d break protocol and share some singles and videos:

It’s been too long, but Spirit Kid is back with a kick-ass single “To My Romeo,” and hopefully a new album cannot be far behind.

Nicole Atkins has been touring a lot lately and after some notable collaborations, she’s started a funding effort for a new album Goodnight Rhonda Lee.

Chris Merritt is a classically trained pop wunderkind and after a series of innovative albums, he took a career break. But now he’s working on”Be Minor” from the upcoming album Time Is Real. Give a listen.

The lovely and talented Lisa Mychols always seems to have something cooking. Her great vocals are featured on the new single “He’s Got Me Dreaming” and it’s available on CD Baby.

I predicted it and it came true! R. Stevie Moore and Jason Falkner backed by the British indie band Happyness at SxSW 2017

Berwanger and Armchair Oracles

Armchair Oracles

Berwanger “Exorcism Rock”

Debut album from Kansas artist Josh Berwanger (The Anniversary, The Only Children) delivers a great single in the title track which blurs the lines of power pop and classic rock, with a chorus worthy of ’70s guitar hit. “Rats & Cats” is another good song with assorted tempo shifts before it settles on a catchy chorus. Berwanger’s voice fits the style well, similar to Joe Elliot’s (Def Leppard) mid-tone rock vocal.

“Booty Shake” resembles a Tom Petty song with its phrasing, “Black Sun” and “I Want You Bad” both feature a killer guitar riff and fast-paced tempos. What makes Berwanger stand out is the seamless ability to go from Ramones-like “Slutty Skin” to standard rock and roll on “Forever” but keeping those hooks in place. The last two songs are “Spirit King” which resembles a mix between Kiss and Extreme, and the glammy epic “Space and Time.” Overall it’s got more than enough here for multiple listens and a great example of melodic rock. Highly Recommended.

Amazon | Kool Kat Musik

Armchair Oracles

Armchair Oracles “In Machina”

One of David Bash’s faves from 2016, Norway’s Armchair Oracles offers up their sophomore LP entitled In Machina. It’s a solid effort, as “Considerations” opens with a jangling rhythm, heavy guitar riffs and minor chord chorus that sticks in your head. “Sound Sleep Sound” is a sweet ballad with delicate acoustic lead featuring Atle Skogrand’s gentle airy lead vocal. The band offers a contrast of the soft jangle atmosphere with a heavy rock riff lead often layered over it, as “Jitterbug” is a good example here. This is the style that rock bands like Radiohead and Coldplay used to be so good at, thankfully Armchair Oracles are just as impressive.

Even better this band knows when to let go and rock heavier like on the powerful “Utility Man.” Some of the music comes close to generic arena rock, (“Here Comes The Feeling”) but the melodies have that little twist to keep it from becoming cliched. “Climbing The Walls” is a nice break with its simple piano riff and slide guitar, almost ELO like. Highly Recommended.

Amazon | CD Baby

The Popravinas! and The Drywall Heels

Armchair Oracles

The Popravinas! “California Sonic”

The Popravinas! are back almost ten years later, as Eddy Sill (The Mutts) is joined by John Adair (Guitar, Harmonica, Mandolin, Vocals) Dean Lyons (Guitar, Vocals) and David Rogers (Drums). The band has its own roots-based California pop sound, sure to appeal to fans of The Connection and/or Whiskeytown. “She’s Going South” is like an updated Beach Boys theme about disaster during summer break as they sing “It gonna get ugly, ugly.”

Eddy has a really unique deep vocal, and it makes the ballad “Santa Monica Moon” both catchy and romantic, with a touch of twang. That country-style covers most of the songs here, “Wow” smartly references the movie Days of Wine and Roses and the Rockpile-like gem “Alone Ain’t So Bad” is another good one. The band then does some good ole honky-tonk on “Great Western Fiasco” and “Checked Out Love,” but all the efforts aren’t as lyrically creative; “I Gotta Hope” and “Sent Callin” seem to just drone on. However, if you enjoy the country rock genre this is definitely a great addition to your playlist.

CD Baby

The Drywall Heels

The Drywall Heels “The Drywall Heels” EP

What a nice surprise! This Toronto band dazzles us with its subtle melodies and sweet harmonies.The band is the combo of Mike Ciani, Jesse Mirsky, Shane Weir, and Matt Goldman. And boy, have they got the hooks. From the first listen of “You Should Know,” it has that jingle jangle guitar and the crooning “uh-uh-oh” played to minor chords. Then they layer on the harmonies and you have a winner.

“Richmond Hill” and “Questionable” follow a similar style, and “Claudia” is a mid-tempo ballad that recalls those perfect DIY melodies The Toms were famous for. And on top of all this, it’s a FREE download. Highly Recommended and no excuses.

FREE Download

Gretchen’s Wheel and Todd O’Keefe

Gretchen's Wheels

Gretchen’s Wheel “Sad Scientist”

Gretchen’s Wheel is the creative outlet for singer/songwriter Lindsay Murray. Her past albums while polished and pleasing just lacked a power pop focus. Sad Scientist changes all that, as Lindsay has gotten out the “big guns” Fernando Perdomo and Andy Reed onboard to help, along with other respected musicians (Donny Brown, Nick Bertling) to really make this album shine. “Better In The Dark” is a masterful melody suited perfectly to Lindsay’s willowy vocal giving it a unique cadence and feel similar to early Christine McVie.

“Left Turn” is a clever lyrical play on the songwriting process, with some great riffs by Mr. Perdomo. “Surviving” is one of a few mid-tempo ballads that really pack an emotional punch. “Blank Slate” is another keeper, a catchy ear-worm that is custom-made for Lindsay’s vocal style, and the somber “Out of Your Hands,” speaks about the transience of life; “make the most of your time while you can.” Overall a fantastic album and highly recommended.

Amazon

Todd O'Keefe

Todd O’Keefe “Uptown”

This album is the definition of “one that floats under the radar,” as singer/songwriter Todd O’Keefe is a respected session musician for Jeff Beck, Ray Davies, and The Posies. But power pop fans will know him from his work as bassist for The 88, and The Green And Yellow TV. Todd’s first solo album, Uptown shows the power of a simple melody and acoustic guitar. Influences are varied from John Lennon, Bob Dylan to Paul Simon.

“The Man On The Mountain” is Guthrie-like folk tune done with a harmonica flourish and gusto. The solid “My Hometown” is a heartfelt ballad that hits all the right buttons, with its feeling of isolation. Related to that is the bouncy “The Day She Said Goodbye,” it’s such a good song, the type Wyatt Funderburke would layer and polish. But here it’s just a brilliantly stripped bare melody. “Highwayman” is a Simonesque ballad about a bandit in who dies unexpectedly. “Laughing Gas For The Idle Class” is an obvious Dylan protest similar to “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Each song is short and sweet, and each melody stands firm without any embellishment. And maybe that’s what is missing here. If only a few tunes here were fuller productions… As it stands, it’s still ripe for multiple listens and very highly recommended.

Amazon

Friday Freebies: The Well Wishers, Vegas With Randolph, The Skullers and I Prefer Guitars

Long-time power pop favorite The Well Wishers (aka Jeff Shelton) give us an album of covers. Many are album tracks and not the big popular hits, which makes this collection even more compelling. Shelton covers Tom Petty, Sloan, ABBA, Bowie and more. Also it’s a totally FREE download.


Vegas With Randolph flies the friendly skies with this eminently catchy boarding pass of a song that happily charts a sweet flight path for these Washington, D.C. popsters. While it isn’t free, it’s only a buck and this is a quality single that deserves to be heard!

The Skullers are a new band from New Jersey that are looking for a little exposure. The debut single “Can We Do That Again” is a sharp bit of guitar pop that certainly is worthy of a FREE download. Learn more about these guys at The Skullers.com

The band I Prefer Guitars is a bit of a mystery. I can’t find any bio information except that this band may be from Hamburg, Stockholm or Warsaw. The music is pretty straight forward modern guitar pop. And it’s also a FREE download, so why not check it out?